By James Champ II
As an educator, order activist, search missionary, cancer survivor, and minister, Dr. Patricia A. Gould-Champ has worked mightily to do the Lord’s work in Richmond. In 1995, the Lord planted in her heart a vision for the people of Fairfield and Whitcomb Courts in the East End of the City of Richmond. After serving as the Associate Minister of the Thirty-First Street Baptist Church for ten years, she along with twenty-three others stepped out in faith with a vision to serve the growing needs of people in these two public project communities. Soon, many people were flocking to the old Cool Lane Bowling Alley turned church with a belief that through the power of God their lives could and would be transformed. Sixteen years later, the Faith Community Baptist Church is continuing to empower the residents of Fairfield, Whitcomb and Creighton Courts. Dr. Patricia A. Gould-Champ is the key to its mission, passion, and energy.
Who is this sixty-five year old Senior Pastor who has served the residents of the East End for more than twenty-five years? She is a native of Danville, Virginia who grew up in Church Hill, graduating from Armstrong High School in 1965. A graduate of Virginia Union University and Virginia State University, she has a doctorate degree in Educational Administration from Virginia Tech. For twenty-five years, she has been married to James Champ, III, her partner in life and ministry, and they are the proud parents of twenty-two year old Pamela, a Hampton University honor graduate. For seventeen years, she has served as an Associate Professor of Practical Theology at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology. Recently, she finished her first book, “Pamela Goes to Church”, a children’s resource on worship.
Faith Community Baptist Church is a unique church whose mission is one of service, empowerment, and community development. Under the direction of this dynamic pastor, they became one of the first churches in the city to offer an on-going HIV/AIDS Prevention Education Ministry. They offer groceries to the residents of the community each Tuesday and each third Sunday, the congregation visits the communities of Fairfield, Whitcomb and Creighton to maintain a relationship and determine how they can serve the community. This constant connection to the community in which they reside has led them to become a Gateway to Recovery site for those struggling with substance abuse. The annual Community Fest on the grounds of the church is a community event that allows residents to receive clothes, food, health services, prayer, counseling, and fellowship with the church members.
On October 30, 2011, the church closed its doors and went out on a Sunday in seven mission teams to provide meals to those in Monroe Park, offer a Sunday meal at the church to those in the community, repair and clean up community homes, clean the alley adjacent to the church, take residents from Fairfield, Whitcomb, and Creighton to the grocery store with gift cards, take meals to two local transitional houses, and to distribute Bibles and children’s books throughout the community. The theme was: we don’t just go to church, we are the church! The goal was not to just do temporary stop-gap mission activities, but to establish and maintain a constant serving presence to the community in which the church resides.
Reverend Gould-Champ’s ministry has been one that is marked by personal involvement. Five years ago, her passion for women’s spiritual development and empowerment led her to develop a twenty-four week Women Empowerment Program called R.I.S.E. (Respect, Integrity, Empowerment and Success). This program, which serves ten women at a time, has been offered to women in Fairfield, Whitcomb, and Creighton. To date, the program has graduated over fifty women. Many of these women of R.I.S.E. have gone on to acquire better jobs, finish school, get married, move out of the courts, and work as facilitators for other R.I.S.E. groups.
When asked about her vision for ministry, Dr. Gould-Champ states: I love people and I firmly believe that God desires to work in the lives of people, transforming minds and hearts. I count it a privilege to be called to be a part of this divine work and this awesome movement of God.